Time management advice for doctors

As a doctor, you always have too much to do each day. You may believe there is nothing you can do about this situation, that it’s just the way things are. But this isn’t so. Here are the five biggest mistakes you might be making. Change these and your life will change too.

Agreeing to do whatever you are asked to do

No is a small word which has a powerful effect. Try it when you are asked to do something extra – for example, being asked to see another three patients in your clinic today, or being interrupted while seeing patients for something which could wait.

There will always be times when an emergency situation means that “yes” is the answer. But most things can wait. Set boundaries and keep to them – for example, I will not see more than this many patients in my clinic, nor do I want any interruptions unless there is an emergency.

Not being productive before you start seeing patients

If you regularly stay late to finish your admin work or take it home to do in the evenings, then try this instead:

When you go home at the end of the day, leave any work not completed on your desk ready for you to deal with as soon as you arrive.

  • Get up earlier each day
  • Turn up to work at least half an hour earlier
  • Use that time before the first patient to complete any admin tasks left from the day before.

Doing everything yourself

You are probably doing several things which you could easily delegate to someone else. Maybe you think it is quicker just to get it done yourself.

In the long term it is better to teach someone else what you want done, in relation to tasks which don’t have to be done by you, and supervise them until they can do them appropriately. This may use some of your time at first but in the long term this will free up more time for you.

Too many time-wasters

Notice, by logging your activities as you go through your day, if you are doing some things which you could stop doing altogether. These may be tasks you could do more efficiently, or things you do just because you were told years ago that your predecessor used to do this or that.

Notice how much time you spend chatting over a coffee, or attending and organising meetings which are of no value.

Eliminate your time wasters. Be more efficient in the way you do things and communicate before meetings so that decisions can be made more quickly.

Not having a life outside of work

Instead of using too much work as an excuse not to have a social life, make your life outside of work a vital part of your week.

Plan to spend time with your partner, friends and family or get involved in community activities.

Decide specifically what you want in these important areas of your life, then look at the ways you can achieve what you want. Take the appropriate steps to create the time to succeed in having a rewarding professional life, as well as a fulfilling life outside of work.

Susan E Kersley